Dark Tourism and Penal History Sites in Scotland

   The Business School

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  Dr Craig Wight  Applications accepted all year round  Self-Funded PhD Students Only

About the Project

Penal history sites have drawn the attention of international dark tourism scholars who have begun to study prison tourism at penal museums, from The Stasi Prison and the Gulag system to postcolonial prisons in different national contexts. Sometimes understood as sites of ‘edutainment’, such locations combine the ability to inform about criminal (in)justice while also commercially exploiting the persistent public interest in crime and punishment. Scottish penal history sites and their legacy in the public imagination have received relatively little attention. These sites range from small local courthouse and jail museums to more high profile operations such as the recently opened Peterhead Prison Museum, and Edinburgh Dungeon. With international comparisons in mind, this project will approach Scotland’s engagement with penal history through an interdisciplinary perspective, drawing on insights from dark tourism, and critical prison studies. Research questions may include: To what extent can penal history sites serve as vehicles for developing critical citizenship skills for visitors? What are the current trends in Scottish prison museums and similar venues in terms of visitor engagement? Do such sites primarily reinforce dominant conceptions of criminal justice, or do they critically interrogate social and political discourses around crime and punishment? What recommendations could be offered to enhance curatorial practice in ways that help invigorate (dark) tourism in Scotland in ethical ways? How can digital tools, including social media be used to attract new audiences? To what extent can communities most strongly impacted by crime and punishment (including the formerly incarcerated) be meaningfully involved in framing penal heritage sites, to deepen public understanding and ethical engagement?

The successful applicant will benefit from the expertise of an interdisciplinary supervisory team based in the Business School and School of Arts and Creative Industries. Dr Craig Wight specialises in discourse analysis as a means of critiquing dark/taboo heritage sites. Prof Anne Schwan researches literary and cultural representations of crime and imprisonment from the nineteenth century to the present.

Applications from students wishing to study part-time are welcomed.

Academic qualifications

A first degree (at least a 2.1) ideally in Tourism, Cultural Studies or related fields, with a good fundamental knowledge of theoretical and methodological concepts in dark tourism studies and/or penal history.

English language requirement - IELTS score must be at least 6.5 (with not less than 6.0 in each of the four components). Other, equivalent qualifications will be accepted. Full details of the University’s policy are available online.

Essential attributes:

Experience of fundamental research in a related area

Competent in critical-theoretical approaches in tourism studies and/or penal history

Knowledge of key concepts and methodological tools in tourism research and/or penal history

Good written and oral communication skills

Strong motivation, with evidence of independent research skills relevant to the project

Good time management

Business & Management (5)


Barton, Alana, and Alyson Brown. “Dark Tourism and the Modern Prison.” Prison Service Journal 199 (January 2012): 44-49.
Oleson, J.C. “Dark Tours: Prison Museums and Hotels.” In Marcus Harmes et al., eds. The Palgrave Handbook of Incarceration in Popular Culture, 541-54.
Palgrave Macmillan, 2020.
Stone, Philip et al. eds. The Palgrave Handbook of Dark Tourism Studies. Palgrave Macmillan, 2018.
Wilson, Jacqueline Z. et al., eds. The Palgrave Handbook of Prison Tourism. Palgrave Macmillan, 2017.
Wise, Jenny, and Lesley McLean. “‘Pack of Thieves?’ The Visual Representation of Prisoners and Convicts in Dark Tourist Sites.” In Marcus
Harmes et al., eds. The Palgrave Handbook of Incarceration in Popular Culture, 555-73. Palgrave Macmillan, 2020.
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 About the Project